Fishing captain navigates financial struggles

May 30, 2020

Head boats have been allowed to resume fishing trips as part of Massachusetts’ first phase of reopening, but for Chris Whitton, the captain of the “Miss Chris,” recent restrictions have made it nearly impossible to make a profit. 

Whitton said that under normal circumstances his boat could hold 55 people, and would charge $70 per person for a fishing trip. 

Early on in the pandemic, he wasn’t allowed to go on fishing charters at all, but the Miss Chris hosted its first trip of the season on Monday, May 25, when restrictions were loosened to allow  trips with a maximum of ten people. 

Counting himself and one employee, that means Whitton can only take eight passengers per trip, even though he said that he can fit 22 people onboard, and still have everyone stay six feet apart from each other. 

He said that he is now “barely breaking even” despite raising prices to $135 per person. 

To make matters worse, the pandemic struck during his busiest time of the year, as he said about 75% of his revenue is earned between May 1 and June 20. 

He said that he hopes that he will be allowed to increase the number of passengers per trip in the second phase of the state reopening, but it is unclear exactly how much of a change he will see. He has also reached out to state and town officials to request the ability to take more passengers, as long as social distancing is in place. As of May 28, he had not received approval to do so.

He added that with the current financial situation, he has “no idea” how he will raise the roughly $60,000 needed in startup money for next year’s fishing season.

As of May 28, Whitton said he had gone on three trips, earning $1,080 each time, which still doesn’t add up to enough to pay his boat’s monthly “note” of $4,600. For context, Whitton explained that the note is roughly analogous to paying a mortgage on a house.